WSFPI to present 2015 plan

Antonio Becerra sorts lumber at the WSFPI mill. Photo: Dave McMechan/Spilyay.
Antonio Becerra sorts lumber at the WSFPI mill. Photo: Dave McMechan/Spilyay.

The Warm Springs Forest Products Industries board and management team are set to meet with Tribal Council this month, to present a plan of operation for 2015.

The WSFPI board and management have been working in recent weeks on a plan for the future operation of the mill. They are scheduled to present future options for Tribal Council consideration on Jan. 28.

It is important for the 2015 plan to show how WSFPI will make the timely stumpage and other payments to the tribes.

The BIA might not approve more timber sales without Tribal Council and WSFPI coming to an agreement on the mill operation.

“There is a timber sale ready to go,” Warm Springs BIA Agency Superintendent John Halliday said during a recent Tribal Council session. “But without some assurance that there will be repayment to the tribes, I cannot in good conscience sign off on the sale.”

The stumpage payment is to compensate for the use of the tribal timber, a trust resource of all the membership, present and future. The payments help the general fund, the Senior Pension fund, per capita, etc.

Ken Borchert from the BIA Regional office was also on hand for the recent Council meeting, along with tribal Forestry, the WSFPI board and managers.

“We see the amount owed (by WSFPI),” Borchert said. “And the amount owed would not be covered by the amount brought in.” Without a plan of operation for 2015, the situation could become worse over the next year, he said.

There are over 110 employees at the mill, most of them tribal members.

The goal is to keep everyone working, “but we need a plan,” said Councilman Carlos Smith.

Secretary-treasurer Jake Suppah said the stumpage payment to the tribes should be the first item on the WSFPI list of bills to pay, rather than the last.

Councilman Raymond Tsumpti said the low priority of the stumpage payment dates back some years, to a time when WSFPI was in a loan discussion with a bank. The bank insisted that the stumpage payment be a lower priority, and it’s stayed there ever since, Councilman Tsumpti said.

WSFPI management raised an issue about the timing of the billing coming from Forestry.

These and other issues are expected for discussion at the Jan. 28 meeting.